Tiny Tim, a misnamed tortoise, had a problem: six eggs that sat inside her shell and would not come out – until UC Davis veterinary experts helped with delivery.
Tim, about age 40, was brought to the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital because she was not eating. Her owners, who’d had the desert tortoise since 1980, were worried.
The hospital’s Companion Exotic Animal Medicine & Surgery Service began diagnostic tests, including X-rays that revealed six heavily calcified, thick-shelled eggs in the main area of her body cavity.
Tim’s owners had no idea she was a female tortoise, let alone that her lack of appetite was tied to six eggs that might have been in her reproductive tract at least since the last breeding season.
The infertile eggs (Tim had no male companionship) had to be removed. Veterinarian David Guzman worked with veterinary residents, students and technicians to get Tim to pass the eggs naturally.
She got fluid injections and lukewarm soaks, in addition to a drug to increase uterine muscular contractions. Only three eggs passed, according to a “case of the month” story from the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
Guzman wanted to avoid surgery for Tim’s sake. The tortoise was sent home to see if she would naturally deposit the eggs in a burrow. Desert tortoises typically dig burrows to hide their eggs.
Her owners dug up the ground to help the reptile dig a burrow. However, no eggs appeared, so Tim went back to the hospital.
Guzman, assisted by veterinary residents, students and technicians, removed Tim’s ovaries, uterus and remaining eggs, according to the UC Davis story. The surgery took longer than expected.
But then, slow and steady wins the race. Surgery was performed without having to cut her shell, which would have lengthened recovery time.
Tiny Tim made a full recovery.
Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.